Saturday, 17 November 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Prestigious yachting regatta to be sailed in Whitianga

By Jack Biddle

A prestigious yachting regatta that is held on a slightly smaller scale than the America’s Cup will be sailed in Whitianga this coming Saturday (10 November) when the Whitianga Waterways play host to the CRC Des Townson Memorial Regatta.

The event, which is run by the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club (BBYC), has been held on the second Saturday in November every year since 1997. The BBYC has a tradition of taking the regatta to the regions, choosing Whitianga this year.

The regatta is limited to Electron remote control model yachts. The yachts are all wind-powered.

“This is our fourth regatta in Mercury Bay over the years as the Whitianga Waterways is an ideal venue,” says Lindsay Graves, one of the regatta organisers.

The regatta was named after Des Townson’s upon his death in 2008.

“Des Townson is best remembered as one of New Zealand’s most successful yacht designers and was the original designer and builder of the Electron class of sailing boat used in the regatta. The Electron was designed specifically as a model yacht and although influenced by Des’s full size boats, a full size Electron was never produced.

“The Electron was built to highlight and demonstrate the skills of land-based sailors and to place them on an equal footing in regattas as all boats are identical and no variations or changes are permitted. Even the exact same remote control units are used by the sailors.

“New boats are only available from the official manufacturer, they cannot be built independently and plans are not made available. Each boat even has its own unique sail number and to date sail numbers are over 1,000. Boat number 1 is still sailing competitively.”

More than 20 boats, to be sailed by sailors from several different clubs, are expected to take part in the day long regatta on Saturday, including four entries from Rarotonga. Whitianga sailors Alan Coubray and Steve Parker will be hoping to make the best of their hometown advantage.

While enjoyment is the focus of the regatta, it can also become highly competitive at times. The regatta will be sailed, like all big yacht regattas, under the Yachting New Zealand Racing Rules of Sailing 2017 - 2020, except the rules related to touching a mark. 

Trophies on offer are either sought-after or to be avoided. The most prized trophy is the Des Townson Memorial Trophy, going to the overall winner. The trophy is a magnificently crafted exact scale replica of an Electron. It was made by Noel May, a craftsman boat builder, who was involved in the building of many of Des’s other keel boats.

The interclub Lady of the Lake Trophy is a piece of driftwood that someone deemed to look like a lady. By all accounts it is one trophy that most sailors would rather not receive as past winners’ wives have reportedly not been particularly happy to have it on display.

An interesting BBYC Electron trophy that won’t be in play on Saturday is the Dennis Conner Shoe Trophy for ocean sailing. “In 1987, Dennis Connor of the USA, sailing Stars and Stripes 87, beat KZ7 in the America’s Cup series in Perth and went on to race and beat Australia in the final,” says Lindsay. “At the after-match party, as was tradition, the winning skipper was tossed in the water. A well-known KZ7 crew member retrieved Conner’s shoe and gave it to us to make the trophy.”

Weather permitting, the Electron boats and sailing expertise on display on Saturday should prove very entertaining. Spectators are encouraged to get along and watch the action off Vanita Drive in the Whitianga Waterways. Racing starts at 9:30am and will continue until around 4:00pm.

Pictured is the action from a previous CRC Des Townson Memorial Regatta that was sailed in Whitianga.

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